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Anti-dowry icon Nisha in school textbooks

October 21, 2004 18:26 IST

The students of Delhi schools will get to read the story of Nisha Sharma, who became an overnight star after getting her bridegroom arrested for demanding more dowry.

The State Council of Educational Research and Training, which prepares school curricula and textbooks and conducts exams for the schools run by the Delhi government, has published the Nisha episode as a short story in class VI English textbooks.

The chapter titled "Man in Jail Over Dowry Demand" tells students how Nisha took an exemplary step by calling policemen and getting her bridegroom Munish Dalal arrested minutes before her wedding. The story encourages students to condemn the dowry system.

Expressing her pleasure, Nisha told "It is really good if people take inspiration from my life. Dowry is a big problem in our society."

The incident occurred in May, 2003. The Dalals were booked under the Dowry Prohibition Act, which is a non-bailable offence. Munish Dalal and his mother Vidya Dalal were arrested and released after three months on a court order. The case is pending in a Delhi court.

The Dalals had demanded Rs12 lakh from the girl's father on the wedding night. Munish refused to marry Nisha without getting the amount. This was apart from the Rs 15 lakh already given by her father before the wedding day. When the Dalals misbehaved with her father on the issue, Nisha called the police and got them arrested. The rest is history, as they say.

Nisha rose to stardom as national and international media rallied behind her for her commendable act.  She received several awards from voluntary groups.

Nisha, who then lived in Delhi's satellite town of Noida, is now married to an engineer in Delhi.

The SCERT is promoting Nisha's story as a milestone in India's bid to abolish dowry system. An ancient Indian tradition, dowry is officially banned in India.

But Nisha's story will face a few bottlenecks before students finally get to read it.

The circulation of the books has been stopped for the time being and officials are not talking about it. The book was published in the middle of the session, which, however, is not the reason for halting the textbooks.

Munish Dalal's mother Vidya Dalal filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking a defamation case against the SCERT for publishing the story. Vidya claimed that, pending a court ruling on the matter, SCERT should not have published the story in textbooks. A person charged with crime should be considered accused and not guilty till a judgment is passed, she said.

In her petition Dalal said the Vikaspuri police station in Delhi refused to lodge a defamation complaint against SCERT. The court has asked Delhi police why it did not entertain Dalal's complaint. The case will come up for hearing on November 5.

The petitioner claimed that the publication of the story was a cognizable offence under The Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act, 1956.

Her lawyer, Roopesh Kumar Sharma, said the act has been framed to protect young minds from being introduced to "harmful" literature. The law aims to restrict young people from being exposed to stories portraying offences, acts of violence or cruelty, or incidents of a repulsive or horrible nature.

An official of SCERT refused to comment as the matter was sub judice.

Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi